Copacabana, along with Ipanema, is perhaps Rio’s most popular destination. The name recall is largely attributed to Barry Manilow’s 1978 song, which interestingly was based on a New York nightclub and has nothing to do with Brazil.
Although its beach in southern Rio only stretches to four kilometers, the density of people, hotels, kiosks, restaurants and bars is off the charts.
A true royalty
Dubbed the ‘Princesinha do Mar’ or Princess of the Sea originally for its splendor and purity, the beach today is brimming with swimmers throughout the year. Tourists love its white sand that contrast beautifully with the blue ocean.
The beach is also home to nationwide and even global beach sporting events like beach soccer or beach volleyball. Stroll along the promenade designed by landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx. There are plenty of snack bars and kiosks around if you are hungry or thirsty.
Welcoming the New Year at the beach
The laidback atmosphere of the beach immediately transforms into fever-pitch frenzy on New Year’s Eve. It’s not accurate to call it a party because greeting the New Year at Copacabana has become an event in itself, attracting hundreds of thousands from all over the world. Prepare to wear anything white according to local custom on the belief that it is the color of luck.
The color white is everywhere, from clothes, shoes, scarves to the white roses offered to Yemanja, the Sea Goddess. The event starts in the morning and ends well after the New Year. Rock legends The Rolling Stones as well as superstars Rod Stewart and Lenny Kravitz have performed here.
Soak in a bit of culture
It’s not all mindless fun in Copacabana when you can also learn a bit of history and culture.
Visit an art museum such as the Fundacao Eva Klabin Rappaport, named after its former resident—the famous collector Eva Klabin—which has an extensive collection from sculptures, rugs, silverware, paintings, and ornaments from Egypt, China and Greece. Fort de Copacabana, meanwhile, was a former infantry fortress starting in 1908 but has since been converted as a venue for cultural events.
Walk around the citadel and marvel at its reinforced walls and the old artilleries and cannons that can fire bullets reaching 23 kilometers. This is perfect if you don’t like crowds. Bairro Peixoto is a neighborhood that offers an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of Copacabana.
It’s a small neighborhood, with neo-colonial buildings no more than four-storeys high. Tall trees dot its streets providing a much-needed canopy. You can see joggers or kids running around its gardens. The elderly love the place as they can laze about in virtual safety.
Fisherman’s Corner gives a glimpse of the old way of living in Copacabana, when fishing was the main livelihood. Today, fishermen can still be seen working on their nets. Seafood is abundant here and can be bought for cheap.
The Copacabana Palace Hotel is one of the oldest in Rio and probably the most famous, judging from the names of its frequent regulars. Other famous personalities that have been billeted into the hotel include Queen Elizabeth, Walt Disney and Argentina’s own, Eva Peron.
If you have money to burn, choose the penthouse and premier rooms since they offer a good observation point of the beach. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at one point shot a film here titled ‘Flying to Rio.’
Where the ‘Magic’ happens
The Copacabana Palace Hotel plays host yearly to the ‘Magic Ball,’ which has become one of the most popular events during the Rio Carnival. Here, you can mingle with the rich and famous who are equally basking in the delight of spending the night with wild abandon.
There’s a dress code, though, and that usually means black tie or evening dress. You can come in a costume but it should be extraordinary. Among the most known street bands here is the Monobloco, which performs the week after the Carnival.